3 ways to get more referrals for your marketing agency

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Referrals make money — at least 16 percent more over the course of their relationship with your business, actually.

Yet marketing agencies tend to trail behind other types of companies when it comes to formalized referral programs. Oftentimes agencies just don’t know where to start, because referral programs for services aren’t as straightforward or automated as those for consumer-focused companies, which typically have lower price points. But failing to institute a formalized referral program can cost you potential clients.

In this post, we’ll go over three simple ways to start generating referrals for your marketing agency, so you can boost your lead-generation efforts.

Addressing the elephant in the room: Referral discounts

I often hear from marketing agency operations teams that referral discounts are not an option for professional services. Since services have a higher price point, longer sales cycle, and are generally more ‘professional’ in nature, referral discounts seem both inappropriate and not cost-effective.

I would argue that neither of those preconceptions are true. For one, there aren’t many reasons why a happy client would be opposed to discounts or freebies. If you’re doing quality work with them, they’ll genuinely want to refer you to their friends anyway, and a bonus or discount is just a cherry on top. That said, if you have a strained relationship with the client, they’ll likely see a referral discount as pandering and disingenuous. Be selective about who you offer referral discounts to, but also ensure you provide consistent service that makes all your clients happy enough to refer you to their peers on their own.

Secondly, a modest but worthwhile discount or bonus is cost-effective in the long run — as long as you price it accordingly and aren’t too lenient with the policy. For example, consider offering a 10 percent discount for a month’s worth of services for a long-term, low-spend retainer client. Wait to pay out the discount until the referral becomes a client, since this prevents your clients from abusing the system and can also lead to more qualified referrals.

For larger clients with significant spend, offering a percentage-based discount isn’t necessarily cost-effective. In these cases, consider instead offering them a free audit or other one-off service relevant to their needs. For example, if you handle paid media for a client who would also benefit from your SEO services, offer them a free site audit in exchange for a referral who becomes a client. Aside from earning a new client, you’ll also open the door for expanding your relationship with the referring client, too.

Link up with complementary businesses for mutual referrals

Company partnerships are a less client-facing method of generating referrals. The key here is to find services you don’t offer, and have no plans of offering any time soon (or ever). A simple way to do this is to have your sales team consistently track service offerings your clients ask for often enough to be of note, but not so often that your CEO wants to invest resources into making it a full-fledged service offering. For example, if you run a small agency strictly focused on web development but you have clients asking for SEO services, you could find an SEO agency partner who doesn’t offer web development.

In doing so, you open up your pool of potential clients without having to rely on your own clients to do the referring. Plus, your agency partner already does some vetting on your behalf to make sure the client is a good fit, which makes for a bit less work on your end as well.

Be selective with your case studies

It can be tempting to crank out case studies for any client that saw positive results with your company, but the most compelling ones come from clients who are well-known, have above-average results, or worked with you on particularly unique projects. You’ll want to highlight how your marketing services not only generated short-term revenue, but also helped set them on a long-term track to marketing success.

And, of course, be sure to circulate your case studies on social media and via email. If you work with large enough brands or have a niche market, chances are the prospects seeing your posts and emails are familiar with the client in the case study. Even better, they may know someone who works there and ask them for more information about your marketing agency.

Agency referral marketing doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right combination of referral discounts, partner programs, and case studies, you can easily reap the benefits of a structured referral program.

Do you have questions or best practices about setting up a referral program for your agency? Head to the CallRail Community to connect with other marketing professionals and share your thoughts.

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